Yes, you can discover magic in your classroom right from the first day of school. Your kids are ready and willing to make magic happen if you are. Think of kindness, wonder, mindset, and the heart of learning as magical.
We all need some magic in our lives. Why not in our classrooms?
1. Wonder – Bring a sense of wonder to your class. In Dean Shareski @shareski’s book, Embracing a Culture of Joy, he has a chapter on wonder. Michelle Baldwin @michellek107, who is a Lead Teacher at Anastasis Academy in Centennial, Colorado, asked her kids in 2014 to name their class. They chose “Architects of Wonder.” Just imagine what they wondered about. What about asking your kids to name their class? What if we bring back the curiosity and wonder that kids had before they entered school? Encourage them to ask “Why?” about what they wonder about. Build a wonder wall with their questions. Here’s a wonder wall idea from i.d.e.a. schools.
2. Kindness – I saw this video of a Wall of Kindness in Lebanon and thought why couldn’t that happen in our classrooms. What if you created a space where kids could share good thoughts and anything they would like to share or give away? It could be a post-it with a good thought, a coat, shoes, a stuffed animal, or even a book. Ask your kids to help build this wall or figure out a way to share ideas and things with each other. Kids want to make a difference so why not start sharing right away?
3. Play – Start off with a fun game that takes very little time. How about Rock, Paper, Scissors? Have kids pair and review how to play the game. Tell them that this goes pretty fast as the ones that lose the play need to quickly move to the sides of the room. Each person who won a play then finds another person who won to play Rock, Paper, Scissors again. Repeat until there are only two people left and see who wins. You can even use a timer to see how long it takes to get to a winner. Then play again several more times. Make sure everyone giggles and cheers for the people still playing. What they may find out is that it is rare for the same person to win every time. It’s just a game where winning has nothing to do with talent or skill. It’s just fun and brings some joy into the class. This is only one game to encourage fun so please share other games or activities in the comment box below.
4. Mindset. You probably know that some kids come to your class with a fixed mindset. They may believe they can’t do some things. How about addressing the differences between growth and fixed mindsets right away? Share the graphic from Carol Dweck’s presentation on Mindset and ask your kids what words and statements fit under fixed mindset or growth mindset. Invite them to create their own classroom graphic or poster with words, statements, and even drawings for fixed and growth mindset that they have said or heard. Invite them to keep a journal about what it means for them to move to a growth mindset.
5. Heart. Find the heart in your classroom. I was lucky to visit Viscount School in New Zealand with Cynthia Sistek-Chandler @cynthiachandler. We were fortunate to meet with Barbara Woods, Deputy Principal of Viscount Primary School in Mangere district of Auckland who shared with us about how each classroom built their heart of learning. We’re going to be writing another blog post about our visit to Viscount School, but want to share a little about how they demonstrated the spirit of learning by identifying the 6 hearts in each classroom. Each teacher described characteristics of what learning means with words such as listening, responsibility, and persistence. Then the class brainstormed characteristics and created and hung up the 6 hearts of learning in their classroom representing what mattered most to them.
6. Focus. Change the focus from only the kids that are successful to all the kids learning so everyone is valued. Check this article from Linda Flanagan at Mindshift on Ditching Awards and Assemblies and Focusing on Kids and Learning. Most kids don’t receive awards or are part of ceremonies celebrating them. This article just came out and really resonated with me. All kids need to feel valued. This article mentions that we need to realize that student life outside the classroom is just as rich as it is inside and that those endeavors are just as worthy of notice. Find out who your kids are, their interests and what they love to do. Share what each child is proud of because “Kids Deserve It” just like Adam Welcome @awelcome and Todd Nesloney @techninjatodd wrote in their book.
7. Passion. What are you passionate about? I started a podcast series, Conversations on Learning, to have conversations with educators and leaders who are passionate about transforming learning. We need to do the same with our kids. What are they passionate about? What if you started a podcast or video show where you captured their stories about what they are passionate about? I learned so much about passion and kindness from Tamara Letter @tamaraletter in her passion for kindness projects. I also had a conversation with Noa Daniel @noasbobs who shared about her 7th graders SportBeat where they interviewed each other about the sports they love. Actually, think about kids interviewing each other. This means the interviewer has to come up with questions and make it conversational so the focus is on the interviewee. You can capture these and put them on your school website, your class website or blog, and even link them out to the community. Let your kids encourage each other to share their magic and what they are passionate about in their own MagicCasts.
The magic is the culture in your classroom. It can be at the heart of learning or the wonder your kids have about learning. The magic is in each child and what they are proud of. It is about changing the focus from teaching to all children to learning about each child and how they can own and drive their learning. You may even want to rethink what people notice before they enter your classroom. I’m excited that it will be about seeing the smiles, hearing the joy, and feeling the happiness from everyone in the class. I didn’t mention creating and tinkering but that’s another blog or two. Please share how you discover magic in your classroom.